Paterson NJ summer camps thrive after COVID pandemic
PATERSON – Girls enrolled in a summer program held at Paterson International High School begin each morning by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
They are Girl Scouts, part of an organization founded over a century ago that teaches children to respect authority and honor traditions. Girls receive badges to celebrate their accomplishments, including one featuring the American flag.
“What’s unique about our camp is that it’s a girls-only environment,” said Charisse Taylor, a Paterson resident who runs the local program. “We try to teach girls to get involved and to be leaders. “
Across the Passaic River, another group has started a new summer program at the Hope Community Center on Paterson’s Northside. At Black Lives Matter Camp, teens and teens read and discuss books – including “The Hate You Give,” a work that has been banned in some places because of its political views.
BLM counselors encourage their campers to challenge authority and break away from what they see as oppressive traditions.
“It’s a different kind of camp,” said Paterson’s Black Lives Matter leader Zellie Thomas. “It’s about teaching them to organize and defend themselves.
In a city of tens of thousands of children, dozens of summer camps and programs provide working parents in Paterson with places to send their sons and daughters to keep them active and off the streets. The camps are run by a myriad of organizations, including churches, nonprofit groups, and the city’s recreation division.
At first glance, few of these groups seem as disparate as the Girl Scouts and Black Lives Matter. But there are similarities between the two camps. For example, Black Lives Matter campers participate in healing circle discussions and take yoga classes, while Girl Scouts engage in meditation and learn mindfulness each morning.
“We support diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Betty Garger, Executive Director of Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey. “We make sure the girls have role models that look like them. We may have been formed 110 years ago and our fundamentals are still the same, but the way we do things has changed.
In recent years, Girl Scouts have focused on teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), said Taylor, who signed up as a Paterson Girl Scout when she was in fourth grade. decades ago.
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On Wednesday afternoon, the girls in the Celebrate Girls Paterson program were designing and building roller coasters and water rides. One group glued Popsicle sticks together to create a channel and cut out the bottoms of the paper cups to make tunnels.
12-year-old Madyson Young and Rosie Jackson were proud of their work. Both girls have been Paterson’s Girl Scouts for several years. They said they liked the meditation sessions, with soothing background music.
“There are no lyrics to sing, so just sit there and be still,” said Rosie, a seventh grader. “It’s relaxing.”
“It really makes you feel calm,” said Madyson, who is entering eighth grade in September. “If you have stress, it helps you cope with it. “
Both girls said they enjoyed being in a camp without boys. Boys, they said, often try to control things. Without boys, they said, it’s easier to bond with other girls. “We can really talk to each other,” Rosie said.
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In addition to reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, Madyson and Rosie take the Scout Oath each morning, an oath in which the girls say they will be “brave and strong” and “make the world a better place.”
“At first I was doing it just because everyone else was doing it,” Madyson said. “But then I started to understand what the words meant. It teaches you a lot.
Celebrate Girls Paterson began in 2003 and before the pandemic, around 100 girls would be registered each summer, according to Girl Scouts officials. After not opening in 2020 due to COVID, this summer’s program has 50 girls.
“I didn’t let my environment get in my way”
Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter camp, which debuted this month, has 15 boys and girls aged 10 to 16. Thomas said members of the Paterson BLM Youth Council, formed last winter, suggested starting the camp.
The youth council developed the program, selected books for campers to read, and selected the field trip list to include places that reflect the activism of the group. For example, a trip will be to a Lenape farm to learn about the Native Americans of New Jersey and how they were abused, camp organizers said.
“People talk about it like it’s our land,” said Kenya Bannister, BLM youth council member and summer camp counselor. “But it really was the land of the Lenapes.”
Thomas said the healing circle talks were an important part of the BLM camp. “We want to heal our communities, but first we have to heal ourselves,” Thomas said.
On Monday, the camp featured a yoga class taught by Ty Daye of Newark. Daye told the young people that he had traveled outside the country to take yoga classes. He spoke of his initial reaction when someone suggested that he pursue yoga.
“What are you talking about? Black men don’t do yoga,” Daye recalls. “I don’t see black men doing yoga in my neighborhood.”
But Daye told the young people that yoga had helped him get through a difficult time in his life. “I didn’t let my surroundings take hold of me,” he said.
In a session that lasted well over an hour, Daye guided BLM campers through a series of yoga poses, including Downward Dog, Runner’s Lunge, Warrior One, warrior two and the cobra.
“You’re about to get more flexible after playing with me,” Daye said as he taught campers how to position different limbs for poses. “Just sink. Let it all flow.
Daye ended the session with a meditation. “Always remember you count first,” he told campers.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org